Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Race weekend

We just finished up Memorial Day here in the U.S., which meant a 3-day weekend with lots of barbecues and special events going on all over the place.

The events of the long weekend really started for me on Thursday, when I participated in a friendly competition with coworkers at our Boulder office's 3rd annual Flagstaff Rider/Runner Challenge. The idea is to see whether it is faster to run the trail or ride the road. It was a lot of fun. I came in first amongst cyclists and second only to my friend and colleague Jim, who ran to an overall first place.

On Saturday and Sunday, I participated in the Superior Morgul Classic. I had originally planned to only do the road race on Sunday, but I got a package deal on Handlebargains for both the crit and the road race (plus some socks and a t-shirt).

Start of the crit, SM4 category.
The crit ended up being more of a non-event for me. I dropped my chain shortly before the end of the first lap, got it good and twisted up, and took forever to get it untangled and back on the chainring. I managed to get a few more laps in before being told by the race official to pull out before the main field lapped me. It was disappointing, but that kind of thing just happens sometimes. The family was there to support me and we had a good time anyway.

Sunday I woke up and, with much apprehension after the previous day's mishap, I headed out for the road race on the famous Morgul-Bismarck circuit. The weather was somewhat dreary and cold, but after warming up, it wasn't unpleasant for riding.

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My category did three laps around that loop, which actually amounted to four climbs up "The Wall" where the finish line is. We had a neutral start on Coalton Road, and racing began after the first climb.

I had better mechanical luck, though there were a few close calls. I nearly ran into some cones on the road, almost flatted out when I hit a seam between concrete and asphalt at the roundabout on McCaslin, and went over a dropped water bottle in the feed zone. But I made it through unscathed. It was much more my type of ride anyway, and I came in 13th in a field of 66 riders. I felt like that was a perfectly acceptable result for my first (completed) race.

Finish line at the road race.

My family almost made it out to see the end of the race, but children and complications come hand in hand. Jim was there at the finish line, though, and I caught up with my wife and kids back at the event coordination area.

That left me with one more day for rest and recovery. On Monday we got out our bikes, trailer, and tag-along and rode up to the park for some play time. I had every intention of spending the afternoon grilling some kabobs and drinking a beer. But there was no beer in the fridge, and the wind, which picked up mightily after we got home, blew out the flames on the grill. I finished up the cooking inside, and we had a great Memorial Day meal nonetheless.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Flagstaff, and then some

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Today I drove up to Boulder and rode the route pictured above. I've been meaning to give the Flagstaff climb a go for quite a while now, so I started from there and made a good loop out of it. I wrote down my turns on a strip of masking tape and stuck that on my top tube so I would be sure not to get lost. But maps rarely tell the whole story when you're planning a ride in unfamiliar territory.

I parked near Chautauqua Park in Boulder and went straight for Flagstaff. I knew that I should have rode around a little bit to warm up first, but I'm not exactly known for my patience.

The climb up Flagstaff did not disappoint. My lungs were burning, heart was pounding, legs were threatening to quit, and in short, I was in pain until the exit from the Boulder Mountain Park and the turn downhill. Not that the climbing was completely finished or anything, but there's a pretty good reprieve from it for a while after that.

I stopped briefly at the turn onto Gross Dam Road (point B), caught my breath, and verified that I was on the right track. Everything from point B to point C on the map is dirt and gravel. It took me by surprise and made me a bit nervous, but my road bike handled it just fine. Admittedly, I took it really slow. A wipe-out or a pinch flat would really have put a damper on things.

Gross Reservoir
The stretch on Coal Creek Canyon Road (Highway 72, from D to E) is some very scenic, very fast riding. I'd been on that part before last summer. Traffic on Highway 93 can be pretty hairy, but it doesn't last too long.

Shortly after point G, there is a sign that indicates that you have to abandon Marshall Drive and get back onto Highway 93. But that only applies to cars. A multi-use path picks up where the road leaves off. The route is mostly on paths until you get back to Baseline, and a good bike lane will take you back up to Chautauqua Park.

I envy those who live close enough to the mountains to be able to do this kind of ride from their front door. But I'm going to be making every effort to get out there and hit the hills in the coming weeks. My climbing legs aren't anywhere near where they were at the end of last summer. Hopefully I'll get them back in shape in time for the Mount Evans Hill Climb in July.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Rainbow Restaurant, Fort Collins

Last Sunday we met a friend and her daughter in Fort Collins for lunch at The Rainbow Restaurant. None of us had ever been there before - it was just something C. found on Google Maps that she thought would satisfy everyone's tastes and dietary requirements.

It was a bit of a wait to get a table for six people, but the weather was pleasant, so we hung out on the front walk and let the kids run around and play. It was well worth the drive and the wait. Their Sunday brunch menu was pretty impressive, and they have many vegetarian and vegan options.

I've never really thought about having to distinguish between a child-friendly restaurant and a child-savvy one. Based on this experience, the Rainbow is definitely the former. Everyone was very friendly and willing to accommodate the kids. They just weren't always sure how to do it. That's fine. It was easy enough to switch from a booth to a normal table that worked better with the high-chairs. And the glass of milk brought out for my 1.5-year-old son was quickly replaced with a disposable cup with a lid.

My main course was a vegan sweet potato burrito, which was huge and delicious. The normal version of that burrito comes with eggs and cheese, but tofu can be substituted for egg for free (tempeh comes at an additional price), and I think there was soy cheese standing in for its dairy counterpart. I also ordered steamed vegetables and a fruit cup. Both were made with fresh produce and tasted great. The waiter looked a little uncertain when I ordered the two side items, but my appetite was up to the challenge. By the time I finished (and had some of my friend's hashbrowns), I was pleasantly stuffed. I followed the meal up with a cup of spiced orange tea, which tasted just as great as everything else I had.

The pumpkin bread French toast ordered by my wife and our friend looked delicious. My daughter had a quesadilla and fruit cup, while the boy just got a fruit cup and shared some of his mother's food. As a bonus, the total bill was quite reasonable. I'm looking forward to eating there again some time.

While I wasn't really very hungry when supper time rolled around, I still worked up the motivation to make and eat some really good mango lentil curry based on a recipe I recently found. Yum. The house still smelled like an Indian restaurant the next day.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Lookout Mountain race postponed

The morning of Saturday, April 23, I went out to Golden to spend some time riding up Lookout Mountain in preparation for the race on the 30th. It was cold and snowy and generally unpleasant. So rather than the 2 or 3 times I thought I was going to do the climb, I just went up once. I even skipped the back-side loop on Paradise Road.

On the way back down I saw something I've never even heard of before: a black fox. From what I've read, it's just a red fox with a genetic mutation. They say it's more common in young foxes, and that they usually grow out of it. But this one was pretty big, so I believe it was a rarer adult specimen.

Anyway, I was all ajitter as I prepared for the race Saturday morning. The wind was quite blustery on the drive out, and the temperatures were cold. I tried to convince myself that the previous weekend's training effort was going to serve me well. But when I got to Golden, I found out that the race was postponed to a later date due to dangerously strong wind farther up the mountain.

It was pretty disappointing, but it wasn't quite as breezy and cold near my home, so I got out for a ride despite the weather conditions. The rest of the day was spent hanging out with the family, reading, napping, and shopping for groceries.

Sunday morning I got up and did an indoor workout on the trainer. I tried a new CTS video with some criterium-specific work in preparation for the Superior Morgul Classic coming up on Memorial Day weekend. I had planned to only do the road race, but a bundle package came up on Handlebargains (it's like Groupon for bike stuff), so I put aside my fear of fast cornering and signed up for both races. Anyway, that CTS workout is a butt-kicker. It was nice.